Author Topic: Research into Japanese pressed glass industry, c.1870-1900  (Read 6265 times)

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Offline David E

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Research into Japanese pressed glass industry, c.1870-1900
« on: December 10, 2008, 10:23:16 AM »
A rather long post, but concerns possible similarities between British and Japanese pressed glass, c.1880-1900.

I was fortunate to meet up recently with a Japanese lady, Akiko Inoue Osumi, a lecturer at Tokai University, who has been researching the British influence on the Japanese sheet glass industry in Shinagawa (c.1870-1880). It is quite possible that Chance or Pilkington got involved, hence my own interest. Although at least five skilled British men went over there, the involvement of either company has still to be proven, but some influence is suspected.
 
Also at this meeting in Cambridge was Sally Haden, whose gt.grandfather (James Speed) was one the five men known to have helped developing the sheet glass works. However, after a few years, the attempt to produce sheet glass was abandoned (c.1880), but the exact reason for this decision has still to be determined. It would appear that production then reverted to art glass: Akiko has some superb photos of blown brush holders with included coloured spirals - a possible Nailsea influence*? - and pressed glass.

*with Akiko's permission I will post these photos - they are very attractive.
 
Akiko was in England for two weeks to research at Jardine Mattheson, in Cambridge, which is a company that was involved in the export of materials to Japan, and provided us with an opportunity to all meet up.
 
It was a very productive meeting - but the reason for this topic concerns a fragment of pressed glass (the photo of a complete plate is attached), which was discovered on the site of the old Shinagawa works. It
is 14.7cm diameter, so virtually 6in.
 
I am curious (and the nub of this post, finally): is it possible that English moulds were made and exported to Japan to create these plates? To my untrained eye, it appears there are certain similarities to Sowerby. And being that making the cast-iron moulds is such a skilled job, this might have been the pertinent action to take, perhaps? I'm also not sure how advanced the cast-iron industry was in Japan at this time.

Following a private mail to Glen, her observations are as follows:

Quote
Steve and I don't have enough information to say yes or no - but I can't see that it would have been ruled out. Do you recall the Davidson look-alike piece with old Chinese writing that my Australian friend discovered?
http://www.geocities.com/carni_glass_uk_2000/MysteryComport.html
 
Could have been a copy, or it could have been a mould made (in England??) for the Chinese market.
 
The open edge pattern on the plate you showed me is similar to Sowerby's Wickerwork. It's also similar to a pattern made by Greener/Jobling and one made by Brockwitz in Germany (possibly other makers too). All were pressed glass and all had an open edge design.
 
We know that Brockwitz had a huge mould shop and sold moulds to other glass makers (Eda Glasbruk in Sweden for example). Talking of Eda, they also made a Wickerwork plate identical to Sowerby's, except theirs has the moulded Eda trademark on the base.
 
In summary, we can't answer your question with certainty; however it seems perfectly possible that moulds could have been made in Europe and exported to Japan.
 
Please do put your question on the GMB. Adam Dodds may be able to help with the Sowerby link.

I have e-mailed Adam to alert him to this post.

Lastly, Akiko showed me some absolutely stunning 'cut-glass' ruby-flashed, intaglio examples of Japanese glass. Despite appearing to have traditional cuts, these were not produced by the traditional method (such as copper wheels, to the Western world), but hand-engraved. I hope Akiko can either join GMB and show us these photos, or allow me to post them — they are truly stunning  8)

All photos are © Akiko Inoue Osumi
David
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Offline David E

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Re: Research into Japanese pressed glass industry, c.1870-1900
« Reply #1 on: December 10, 2008, 10:24:09 AM »
Last photo. All photos are © Akiko Inoue Osumi
David
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Offline Cathy B

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Re: Research into Japanese pressed glass industry, c.1870-1900
« Reply #2 on: December 10, 2008, 11:30:32 AM »
That piece is extraordinarily beautiful. Thanks very much to Akiko for letting you show it.

I came across the website of the Japanese Uranium Glass Collectors Club recently. They seem a little bit lost in terms of identification (if the website is anything to go by), and seem to collect mainly foreign glass, but you may find someone there willing and able to collaborate?

http://uranglass.gooside.com/english.htm

Offline David E

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Re: Research into Japanese pressed glass industry, c.1870-1900
« Reply #3 on: December 10, 2008, 11:35:55 AM »
It may be worth encouraging the Japanese uranium glass collectors to join GMB, although this example is very early and may not be within their collecting sphere.

Not sure how GMB copes with Japanese pictograms though! 8)
David
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Offline krsilber

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Re: Research into Japanese pressed glass industry, c.1870-1900
« Reply #4 on: December 10, 2008, 06:32:27 PM »
That's a great pattern!  So much depth and dimension to it.  What a fascinating research topic!  I would love to see the engraved pieces you mention.  Do you mean they used chisel-like tools?  Sometime tools like that were used in the West as well for fine work that couldn't be done with a wheel.

I can't imagine Japan didn't have the capability to produce their own molds, but that doesn't mean they didn't import them.
Kristi


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Offline Adam

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Re: Research into Japanese pressed glass industry, c.1870-1900
« Reply #5 on: December 10, 2008, 07:22:03 PM »
I can't contribute much here - other people know far more than I do about 19th century activities, Sowerby or otherwise.  One point - it wasn't the making of the iron castings which was highly skilled in mould making.  Although foundry work is skilled in its own right such skills were available world wide for years, probably centuries.  An iron casting is simply the starting point for the glass mould maker to apply his highly specialized skill.  I'm afraid I have no idea whether or not moulds might have been exported.

Probably of less interest to the GMB, I am curious to know why attempts at making sheet were abandoned; unfortunately David says no one knows.  In the 1860s sheet would either be made by the ancient spinning method (cf "bullseyes") or, more likely, by blowing cylinders, splitting and flattening them.  Both of these are essentially manual processes, certainly skilled but requiring little capital equipment or engineering apart, of course from the furnaces.  The next stage in evolution, the Lubbers process, which needed major investment might have been beyond the Japanese then but in any case it didn't appear on the scene until early 20th century.

Sorry, that's my lot!

Adam D.

Offline krsilber

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Re: Research into Japanese pressed glass industry, c.1870-1900
« Reply #6 on: December 10, 2008, 07:39:07 PM »
Maybe it just wasn't economical; perhaps importing it was cheaper.  I wonder what kind of sand there is in Japan, it being a volcanic area.
Kristi


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Offline Frank

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Re: Research into Japanese pressed glass industry, c.1870-1900
« Reply #7 on: December 10, 2008, 10:14:59 PM »
Minor correction David: British and Scottish men.  ;)

Nothing turning up on the Scottish side of this investigation yet.
Frank A.
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Offline Frank

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Re: Research into Japanese pressed glass industry, c.1870-1900
« Reply #8 on: December 10, 2008, 10:21:49 PM »
An idle thought, carving was a very high artform in Japan, carving a mould after casting would be no issue. Clues would be in the use of unusual combinations of design elements, as in other fields such as pottery, where items are made for export.

The importation of British (or American which were of good quality in that period) moulds is also highly likely as the imported men would utilise their own contacts. But it might be hard to get hard facts on that.
Frank A.
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Offline Anne

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Re: Research into Japanese pressed glass industry, c.1870-1900
« Reply #9 on: December 10, 2008, 11:26:53 PM »
Minor correction David: British and Scottish men.  ;)

Nothing turning up on the Scottish side of this investigation yet.

Despite the feelings of some Scots, Frank, Scotland is still part of Britain.  Did you mean English and Scottish?  >:D

 

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